So many things have swirled together in my mind over the past week. Monday, i went to see the special screening of the movie Tortured For Christ about Richard Wurmbrand, the founder of Voice of the Martyrs, which was an extremely edifying and challenging film. Then, over the course of Wednesday through Friday, i was at the 2018 Shepherds Conference, where the theme was Jesus’ words in Matthew 16 when He said, “I will build my church.” Finally, i finished reading John Piper’s book, The Future of Justification about a week ago.
The main topic of this blog is living out the gospel of Jesus Christ. This cannot be done apart from belief in and knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ–His atoning death for sinners and His resurrection that defeats death–which is why i focus on expositing the Scripture in my posts on this site. And today’s post is no different.
We are called–as Christians–to live in Love. As the hymn, “Oh Church Arise” states, we as believers are to be “An army bold, whose battle cry is ‘Love!’ Reaching out to those in darkness.”
John writes some very poignant words in 1 John 3:16. “This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers.”
John is VERY clear that if we claim the name of Jesus we are indebted to love others sacrificially.
In the movie Tortured For Christ it was so clear that Richard Wurmbrand, his family, and the members of his church–along with fellow prisoners for Christ throughout his life–selflessly loved not only each other, but also the lost. For example: they would rather get tortured in prison than give names and places of believers they knew, they would rather get tortured in prison than cease to pray (whether for their families or their persecutors), they would rather risk being thrown in prison than cease to present the Gospel to the communist soldiers occupying their town.
In addition, the conference i was at this week emphasized the utter importance of the unity of the church. There is no true unity apart from the selfless type of love evidenced by the Wurmbrands in Tortured For Christ.
And i would go so far as to say that if we are incapable of laying down our rights and sacrificing our preferences for the good of the body of Christ–whether local or universal–when there is next to no persecution going on (as it is in America currently), then how in the world can we hope to love one another, or the lost, or our persecutors when Christianity becomes outlawed?
We must pray for a supernatural love to infuse our lives so that we prioritize both the edification of the church and the evangelization from the church–the church’s only divinely given mission.
However, as John Piper’s book so poignantly cautioned in his conclusion: there is a tragedy that potentially in “our desire to elevate the importance of the beautiful works of love, we begin to nullify the very beauty of Christ and his work that they were designed to display” (193).
We must never think that our love earns our salvation. Piper writes, “If we make the mistake of thinking that our works of love (the fruit of God’s Spirit) secure or increase God’s commitment to be completely for us, now and in the last judgment, we compromise the very reason that these works of love exist, namely, to display the infinite worth of Christ and his work as our all-sufficient obedience and all-sufficient sacrifice” (emphasis added, Piper, 191).
He concludes his book–as i will this post–by writing,
The freedom and courage to love is what the world desperately needs to see in the church and from the church. . . . The world needs to see the radical, risk-taking, Christ-exalting sacrifice of humble love that makes us willing to lay down our lives for the good of others, without the demand of reward on this earth. For the sake of this display of the glory of Christ, I plead for our allegiance to a robust, biblical, historic vision of Christ whose obedience is counted as ours through faith alone. (193-194).
Let us truly be “An army bold, whose battle cry is ‘Love!’ Reaching out to those in darkness” as 3,000 men sang in unison at the Shepherds’ Conference this past week.
Soli Deo Gloria